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Description: I’m not sure what your impression is, but if you’ve had some class discussion or have done some reading in relation to the process of diagnosing autism and young children then think for a minute about how such a diagnosis proceeds. What would you think of the suggestion that some of the core diagnostic criteria reflect behaviours that are fairly tightly and deeply tied to the norms and behaviours that vary quite dramatically culturally? Can you think of some of the potential implications of this connection? After you’ve thought about it read the linked article below and see how it’s suggestions match up with your own thoughts.

Source: How Cultural Differences Affect Autism Diagnosis, Scientific American, Sarah C. Bauer, Jessica Winegar, and Sandra Waxman

Date: April 1, 2016

Autism Awareness

Photo Credit: public domain

Links: Article Link —

While there are large number of criteria considered before conferring a diagnosis of autism it is worth serious consideration that some of the core criteria are strongly linked to variations in socio-cultural practice. In particular, infants who fail to make eye contact with adults and others who interact with them are considered to behaving in ways that might reflect autism spectrum disorder behaviour. This despite the fact that many cultures outside of North America, not to mention first nation cultures within North America, have strong prohibitions against making direct eye contact with others and particularly against children making direct eye contact with unfamiliar adults or others in authority. The authors of this article, all of whom worked in areas related to children, development, and culture discuss some of the implications of this overlap between diagnostic criteria and culture. The discussion raises some interesting implications for how we think about the role of culture in relation to clinical diagnosis in ways that reflect the important question of whether cultural influences on developmental variables should be considered as simple context affects or as markers of potentially significant differences in developmental trajectories and goals across cultural groups.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder that might have different meaning within distinct cultural communities?
  2. What are some of the implications for the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder of cultural variation in interpretation diagnostic criteria relevant social behaviour?
  3. What are some of the ways in which clinical psychology and psychiatry as well as people studying development and psychopathology might need to adapt their series and their diagnostic criteria in relation to the issues discussed in this article?

References (Read Further):

Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month

Johnson, C. P., & Myers, S. M. (2007). Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 120(5), 1183-1215.

Robins, D. L., Adamson, L. B., Barton, M., Connell Jr, J. E., Dumont-Mathieu, T., Dworkin, P. H., … & Newschaffer, C. (2016). Universal Autism Screening for Toddlers: Recommendations at Odds. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 1-3.

Kover, S. T., Edmunds, S. R., & Weismer, S. E. (2016). Brief Report: Ages of Language Milestones as Predictors of Developmental Trajectories in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 1-7.

Siu, A. L., Bibbins-Domingo, K., Grossman, D. C., Baumann, L. C., Davidson, K. W., Ebell, M., … & Krist, A. H. (2016). Screening for autism spectrum disorder in young children: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA, 315(7), 691-696.